You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2011.

My Friday was a full day.  Every hour was packed with studying, meetings, people, emails, text messages, writing deadlines, standing meetings, impromptu meetings, one on one clarifications, et cetera.  By the time my smart phone dinged for the next session, I was pooped.

When I arrived at home Yvonne and I sat together to enjoy a decompress hour.  Then, it was time to head back to church for another meeting.  But, this meeting included dinner.

We were scheduled to join the session of one of our twenty-three small groups.  Both of us were looking forward to connecting with more of our people during a personal and intimate venue.

Once at church we made our way to the designated room.  The food arrived and the aroma made our heads turn.  Soon collective grace was offered and we all wandered into the kitchen to load up our plates for a great meal.  Tomato beef chow mein, baby bok choy and fish fillet with corn sauce were as Rachel Ray says, “Delish!”

The meal served as a facilitation.  Busy families don’t have time to add a meeting at church.  But, when it is a gathering around a meal that is catered, it makes busy lives enjoy the evening.

Little children accompanied moms and dads.  Their laughter and squeals were delightful. Friendships were special for the children who suddenly blended into one mass of rambunctious humanity.  Their tastes for the meal was imperceptible but their joyful delight made the evening.

Soon, they was escorted next door for an evening of babysitting.  The adults gathered.  Together we talked, laughed, explained and prayed.  It was parent time, time to grow together, grow deeper with each other and to learn more about each of the amazingly varied lives that we live.

We talked politics, child rearing, history, life preferences, et cetera.  It was fun, informative and helped us get to know each other better.  Christ had His common impact on our lives was the focus on our conversation.

The evening wasn’t over.  A wonderful climax was about to ensue.  Enoch was whisked into our room by his parents.  Closely in tow were all of the other children.  Today he was turning two

We had a birthday party! Cake and ice cream was the center of our evening dessert.  This is real life, when friendships start, deepen and last for years.

photo credit: google image

For the last decade of my life I was used to driving my four wheeled vehicle to an international motorcycle show in January.  We mount the latest in hot machines and give our opinions on the comfort, layout and latest features.

Some times we even buy something for the riding season that is still a distant April or more likely May Spring weather.  We eventually part company with a wave, last minute joke or good natured tease.  But, at home as we pass by our winterized motorcycles, we sigh deeply. 

Since November we have hidden our bikes from impossible riding weather.  We have added a stabilizer to our gasoline tank.  Of course we ran the engine to distribute the chemicals with the assignment to protect the fuel system from gumming up.  Gasoline left to itself will break down quickly, coat every part of the fuel system with gunk.

But, now I live on the Left Coast, God must love it here.  It’s January in Cali.  The weather for this past week has been amazing!  The sun has been shining.  Temperatures rose to the low 60’s.  Then, it crept even higher to the high 60’s.  Yesterday it was in the low 70’s.

On Thursday I put on my motorcyle gear.  Chaps are comfortable and take away the wind chill on my legs. Then, I put on my riding jacket. It zips up precisely and buttons up to keep the weather out.

With my helmet strapped on and gloves snuggly fitted, I rolled out on to our neighborhood street.  The rumble of my Kawi smoothly head south on 34th Ave. Normally, the shortest route to my office is down 36th Ave and then through Golden Gate Park.  But, this too beautiful a day for the shortest route. 

Instead, I followed Fulton down hill. It would end at the Pacific Ocean.  The sun was rising and cast a disappearing shadow on the asphalt that lay ahead of me. 

In the distance, without the shade trees of giant eucalyptus the ocean was lit by the morning light.  Waves were breaking on the sandy shores of the nearing beaches. They almost looked like they were lit up with some clever engineering lighting system. 

Then, my route took me south along the Great Highway.  A soft breeze cradled my steady ride.  Seagulls glided dodged each other overhead.  I drank it all in and felt the deep privilege of such a spectacular commute.

photo credit: google image

Paul humbly admits that according to the world’s standards he does not measure up to their “wisdom” or “persuasion”.  His self-effacing disposition is not to be confused with a message that is less than excellent.

Rather, the wisdom in his message is not missing, rather, it is from a different source.  Those who are spiritually mature understand it.  If the measure of wisdom is of this world, then there is no understanding. 

Even when those who are considered bright by the world’s standards are pushed forward, they have no capacity to perceive spiritual truth.  Their personal end by eternal standards is a dead-end.  Paul’s wisdom is from God, full of truth and mystery as well.

Great confidence can be placed in what God’s plan includes.  His strategy in our lives was laid out before time.  That certainty brings great comfort and breeds a depth of trust for all who follow Him.

Proof of the foolishness that is replete in the world’s best is embedded in history.  These who thought highly of themselves are guilty of the heinous crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  Blindness cannot be more clearly demonstrated than that wicked deed.

All who follow Christ experience unimaginable adversity in life.  During the pain of the trials purpose and reasons are elusive.  However, when life has been lived, God ALWAYS has amazing reasons for His designs.  It is always good if we love him.

There is no medical report, no website flashing banner or text message that assures us.  Rather, God puts in our lives a faithful witness.  His Holy Spirit testifies, comforts and affirms God’s grace in our lives, even the intricate picture of life’s purposes. 

Just as we all live with own spirit that knows the intricacies of our deep passions and dreams, so the Holy Spirit knows the plans of the Father for us.  There is no spirit of the world available for us.  But, God gives us His Spirit to be His witness in us every day of our lives.

What is spiritual is of great value than what is temporal. Without His Spirit a person does not have the capacity to understand spiritual truth.  Like a language that is gibberish they reject truth and hold on to the temporary things.  That is all they have.

Having Christ is the difference.  His mind gives us the means to complete understanding of the things of God.  That is the wisdom of the ages.

1 corinthians 2.6-16

photo credit: google image

On our approach to our apartment Yvonne and I were enjoying great conversation about our evening out. Automatically, I pressed our garage door opener. Slowly and methodically the chain driven motor rumbled and the entrance to our inside parking spot appeared.

The oddity of what we saw was peculiar. The door from the garage to the ground floor hallway was open. We never leave it open.

Normally, the hallway is dark, but this time the light was on. My suspicions were immediately on alert. Quickly, I exited our car and sped upstairs and was relieved that our apartment door was still intact and not broken open like our last burglary.

But, my relaxed mood was in for a shock. When I trotted down the stairs and into the garage to give Yvonne the OK, I did a double take to my left. My treasured Raleigh road bike was gone!

Burglars had struck again for the third time in less than a year. I was disgusted. “No! They stole my bicycle!” I moaned.

We took a quick assessment of our garage. The bicycle helmet was also missing. Those cads!

My bike was a slick road bike. It was built for the long distances and had carried me for countless miles in Oregon, Michigan and California. The bike was tuned to me personally.

In Michigan I had the bike customized just for me. A local bike shop took my order. They installed a flat handle bar in place of the racing curved bar.

Since they were working on the handle bar, I had them upgrade my brakes, grips and add customized bar end handles. A computer for speed, distance, time and combined calculations finished off the top end of this spiffy machine. It was a very cool look.

A Blackburn luggage rack doubled as a decent rear wheel fender. The normal skunk stripe from a rainy road would not send a rooster tail splattering mud and grime up my back. Its design allows saddlebags to quickly attach and detach from a strong frame.

On the back-end of my bike is an electric tail light. It will flash or hold a steady light. Safety is always first.

On my silver blue mount I have commuted for miles in Oregon. In Michigan we cruised the undulations of Farmington Hills. Here in California our routes started eating up the Pacific Ocean frontage road. God knows that I miss my bike.

photo credit: google image

By Friday night I knew that I was going to feel the pressure.  I assessed where I was in the process of preparing Sunday’s sermon.  My conclusion was clear.  I was not where I needed to be to feel comfortable, being well prepared to speak on behalf of Almighty God.

Oh, I had put in the hours of studying.  My work ethic that is applied to sermon preparation has been steady for decades.  I was taught and I have taught others a simple formula.  For every minute of speaking there is an investment of an hour of preparation.  Yeah, I know that it sounds like an exaggeration, but it is actually a realistic guideline.

For a typical 30 minute sermon, there is 30 hour requirement for preparation.  Some weeks this kind of regimen is impossible.  Meetings, emergencies, counseling doesn’t allow this kind of investment.  But, when I can I will strive for this kind of plan.

Usually, I start the preparation on the Sunday before I speak.  That’s when I read through the Scripture that is scheduled for the next week.  I like to read, reread and reread that passage again and again. 

When I can think through the logical development of the passage in my mind, then, I began to feel comfortable with it.  Preaching is as much an art form as it is a science.  Throw in a lot of hard work and you have an idea of what is required of everyone who climbs behind a pulpit.

Standing in front of hundreds of people each week is a serious responsibility.  The challenges and burdens that these lives carry is overwhelming.  How can one person speaking be practical and impactful to so many different lives facing so many different trials in life?

It is not human talent that can accomplish this feat. Nor is it entertainment that can keep bringing people back.  Neither is it a planning issue that persuades people to faithfully return.

Instead, there is a mysterious supernatural phenomenon that is possible when preaching is exercised.  When the inspired Scriptures take center stage, then, the Almighty takes over and speaks through the preacher and the people hear from HIM.  Personally, I don’t want to get in His way.

Instead, I try to see the people through His eyes.  People whose lives He treasures are my audience each week.  Bringing it every seven days is a magnanimous task, but I am so honored to do it again and again.

photo credit: yahoo image

There are very few reality shows on television that capture my interest.  Marketing strategies that advertise new attempts grab my interest but more often than not I have turned the pilot show off before the first episode is even half-way completed.  Expectations form in my mind and if those are disappointed or if I feel that I was sucked into a bait-and-switch entertainment, then I am easily motivated to for the OFF switch.

Over the years of the show American Idol I have been entertained.  Both with hysterical laughing, deeply moved tugging of my heart and marvelling at the singing talent that many people enjoy.  Of course the drama behind the judges desk is half of the entertainment.

With the major shift of personalities who critique the singers, I wasn’t sure that I would be interested any more.  This 2011 season wasn’t even on my radar.  My schedule is busy enough that I plan very very few TV watching moments in my life.  But, happen-chance put me in front of the TV during a writing project.

Randy was his usual insightful skilled observer.  Steve was very humorous and right on the money when it came to spotting talent.  But, Jennifer was amazing. 

Lopez clearly displays her musicianship, performance expertise and depth of humanity.  Truly she was torn when it came to rejecting hopeful stars.  Saying “No” even when it is obvious is never easy for people who know life.

Rejection hurts people.  All who have the responsibility to assess the talent or lack there of in the lives of others must respect the life that tries.  Those who do this best couch their language care while telling the truth.

Tens of thousands hear the truth on AI.  A precious few standout among the millions who enjoy music to give us more of the music that stirs our lives.  This show finds is one mechanism that gives all of us those few.

The judges helped discover Paris, mother of a special needs child.  Yes, she obviously has talent.  We all heard it.

What is stunning is the story of her life.  Some whine that the stories distract from the focus of discovering talent.  But, no singer rises to the level of what music is at its essential without their lives, their heart and their soul expressing itself through the composition in song.  Go AI, I’m enjoying the new season!

photo credit: google image

Football is filling up the early days of the new year.  Top college teams are playing an endless schedule of bowl games.  For these collegiate programs this is the climax of a successful year.  Add to that the playoffs for the NFL and the week’s schedule is filled with great games of one of the greatest games for spectators.

With each gamed I am watching teams that I don’t have loyalties one way or the other.  I don’t know their star players.  Their coaches are not known to me either. 

As the excited players take to the field their fans go wild.  Music fills the air.  Cheerleaders began to lose their voices.  Still I have no designated party spirit.

Instead, I am eager to watch good competitive football.  When I am watching two teams battle it out on the gridiron, I am looking for excellent play calling, crisp execution and athletic prowess emerge.  I like a competitive game.

It doesn’t take long for me to be flexing muscles, leaning right or left, dodging gently in my arm chair and groaning when a play doesn’t advance the ball.  Occasionally, a “No!” will squeek out.  Or at other times, “Oh, yeah!” will fill our living room.  Yvonne will call out from the kitchen, “What?”

I’m a fan but not a player.  While I watch a game ensue, I eventually pick a team that I want to win.  There’s no real reason for my choice. 

While I try to remain dispassionate, I become partisan before long.  Maybe it’s the uniform, maybe the mascot, maybe the university name or pro team’s city.  Whatever, it’s just fun to want one team to win over another.

The bad part is that I have a poor record of choices.  So far this season I have chosen badly on a ratio of 1:7.  I just shake my head.

During the collegiate national championship, I was biased.  I spent over twenty years of my life in Oregon.  During those two decades no Oregon university did well on the gridiron. 

Now, an Oregon team has a chance to be national champions.  Will they have the heart?  Will their perfect year be topped off with another victory?  Can the coaching staff and team members pull it all togethere against a dominating opponent? 

One team will win like they have won all season long.  The other team will lose for the first time this season.  Did I choose the right team?

photo credit: google image

Behind the wheel with our newly adopted home city of San Francisco fading into the distance, I chuckled.  It is ironic, isn’t it? Millions from around the world save, plan and execute their organizations just to visit this amazing city.  Now, Yvonne and I packed overnight bags and headed out of the city just to get a break. 

But, every adventure is for the thrill of life, building memories and recharging our batteries to go at it again.  I love doing what I do.  Investing in people, leading people and building people up is what turns my crank.  Yet, to keep it up I know that I must manage my reserves.

Getting away to change the scenery helps me.  There is not a complete erasing of my duties.  Rather, I reflect a lot on what I am doing, who I am doing it with and how to do it better.

On our way out-of-town just as I was beginning to decompress from a week and weekend filled with great things, we spotted a familiar car.  The silhouettes in the car matched our expectations.  Within seconds we pulled up and alongside some of our new friends from Sunset Church.

We honked our horn, which is a dangerous thing to do in heavy San Francisco traffic.  Who knows who might take offense to that intrusion and over-react.  But, it was spontaneous.

Our friends turned to look and broke out in beaming smiles.  Both windows went down and we shared fun teasing and encouraging words.  That final episode of familiarity reminded us that we weren’t trying to escape people that we loved.

After the light turned green and we were on our separate ways, I grinned at our providential encounter.  The cheer and smiles were real.  We love the people that we have been called to serve.

Our little overnight escape is so that we can catch our breath and come back and do more to build into those that are  becoming a part of our lives.  They are people who belong to the Almighty and we have the privilege to be His representatives for a season and encourage them.  What great privilege is there than that?

The weather outside is wonderful.  The sky is blue.  Clouds lazily drift along through the heavens above.  My heavenly Father is giving me a drink of respite for a week’s work that has been done well.  I am blessed.

photo credit: google image

Antietam & DC 018We are surrounded by people.  Some of the people who fill our days or mar our past have been people of power and influence.  They have made us fearful and unduly altered our lives. 

The temptation in life is to seek after that kind of power so that we can protect ourselves from being victimized again.  Then, the Spirit of God convicts us for our fleshly intent.  We shake our head and wonder what recourse we have.  God gives us a solution that will be far more satisfying and guilt free. 

Paul tells us about his boldness.  It is a different kind of power than the world’s.  When it is experienced, nothing in the world can compare to it.

First, there must be an honest appraisal of personal intent.  By worldly standards, wisdom or skillful articulation is not competitive.  Even though his message was eternal, it did not measure up to human standards.

Discernment is critical for a spiritual vitality that matures properly. 

Second, there was a deep-seated conviction on the Apostle’s part.  He personally resolved to concentrate his focus on knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified.  This includes both academic and spiritual knowledge.

Paul could have pursued education and prowess to impress the world.  He knew what that path required from his extension educational background.  However, he chose to forego that route and gave himself to personally know His Lord and Savior instead.

The pubic demeanor of leaders is usually perceived as confident and gifted.  But, Paul shows us the hidden heart of a leader.  He admits his feelings of weakness and fear.  He emphasizes that to the point describing his mood as trembling.

According the world’s standards, Paul knew that his performance was not acceptable.  From a worldly professional viewpoint didn’t measure up.  Paul could admit that.  He could recognize and accept the bad review.  But, his values were elsewhere.

The apostle was interested in putting the Spirit of God on display.  He wanted all of the glory to go to God.  Preaching is effective when the Spirit is depended up for His eternal impact.  If the Spirit makes the preaching successful, then, He alone should receive the credit.

More than credit, Paul had an even deeper interest.  If the preaching that He did was accomplished by the Spirit’s power, then, the effect would be spectacular.  God alone deserves the credit, the loyalty and the trust through faith.

1 corinthians 2.1-5

photo credit: brucefong photography

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